Scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed, I discovered an article rant on Hollywood. The smiling faces of famous rich people wearing clothes that cost more than I make in a month is like that bulletin board advertisement off Highway 69 whose photograph said to me, “Look at how happy I am, why aren’t you buying one of these homes?” God gives us gifts. Not all gifts are meant to go viral or make us wealthy.
Rafiq had a successful music business in France. He became a believer and moved back to North Africa with his family to play music for the Lord. When the interviewer (A Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison) asked Rafiq why he didn’t work in New York or Los Angeles where his talent could get a bigger platform (and make a lot of money), Rafiq shared the dream he had about this question.
In his dream, an old man showed Rafiq a meadow with sheep. Rafiq also saw a little boy, “sitting on a hillside playing a flute.”
A Wind in the House of Islam continues on pages 97-98:
The old man in the dream said, “What else do you see?”
“I see a little shepherd boy.”
“And what is he doing?” the old man asked.
“He is playing a flute,” I said.
“And why is he playing a flute?”
“He is playing it,” I said, “so the sheep will know that they belong to him.”
The old man said gently, “You are that shepherd boy. And that is why you must continue your music, so the sheep know that they belong to him.”
Rafiq makes musicals in North Africa and his people are listening. I put down this book and went to read another chapter for my morning devotions in my NIV Stewardship Study Bible. It seemed like God had a theme: fame, money, success, and provision. I was listening. My heart felt a bit overwhelmed as 2016 brought the death of a family dog and medical bills. 2017 didn’t improve with the death of our cat and vet bills. Other things are happening, too, that made me feel stressed. The old voices in my head kept asking me, “What are you doing with your writing?” Those voices define success by money, celebrity status, and looks. I can’t listen to that voice anymore.
Exodus 3 talked about Moses and the burning bush. A shepherd was being called to go to a different pasture and use the gifts he didn’t know about yet to bring God’s people away from slavery. God instructed Moses to use the right wording to identify himself as sent from God–I Am. This would establish trust so Moses could follow God and lead his people to, “a land of milk and honey.” The devotion about this talked about how God provides for his people:
“God is both predictable and unpredictable He is absolutely predictable in his faithfulness to provide for our needs. What we cannot predict is how the Lord will provide. He uses various and sometimes surprising means of meeting our needs. Regardless of how he chooses to provide for our needs, he is utterly reliable.” (pg. 72, Exploring Stewardship; NIV Stewardship Study Bible).
The devotion quotes Andy Stanley’s reflection on giving. We are fearful as church people. We are compared to the farmer who fears losing his seed so he doesn’t plant anything. In my twenties, I gave little to nothing to God and His church. When I understood Stewardship, giving became a part of our morning worship, even our daily worship, as we pay monthly fees for ministry upkeep and invest in equipment to help share the Gospel as well as giving to our home church. Now that I am raising support, I find it odd to say how I like this feeling of standing on the precipice between middle class and poverty.
Instead of seeing the terrifying drop over the edge of the cliff, I see what Indiana Jones saw in, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: A bridge. The Lord’s provision: The free washer gifted to us from a friend, empathy from friends going through similar situations, unexpected new shoes and clothes that come from someone who likes to go shopping and the stores have no return policy, and income that comes from places I didn’t expect. It brings me back to Rafiq in North Africa.
The American Dream haunts us. Success as defined by our parents and grandparents make us feel inadequate when we are “only” using our gifts in seemingly small ways. When my name isn’t on a book cover or when I do not have a piece of paper from a prestigious college or university, you feel worthless, like you aren’t doing enough or aren’t qualified. People with great talent are looked on with pity when their platform isn’t big enough. Instead of looking at our gift as something to become famous with, we should look at our gift the way Rafiq now looks at his music–as a way to let the sheep know that they belong to Jesus.
Your writing, your music, or your gift doesn’t have to obviously be Christian. It can become a vehicle that leads to meaningful conversation online about your faith, your testimony, and what the Bible says about Isa al-Masih (Jesus).
What is God asking you to do with your gift and abilities? Is your giving too comfortable?